On Tuesday, Moroccan police arrested a man and his wife over their involvement in a horrific sexual assault of a woman. In an official statement on the matter, the country's General Directorate of National Security said both defendants were detained in Salé, a city in north-western Morocco.
In the crime's gruesome details, the 36-year-old man and his 26-year-old wife raped the victim using a bottle of beer. Police said the two suspects were under the influence of drugs when the incident took place. Though not sober and mentally capable, the couple managed to take a video of the sickening episode, which police later found on one of their mobile phones.
Investigators revealed the criminal act was motivated by revenge, given there was an alleged relationship between the male assailant and the victim. Both the rapist and his wife will remain in police custody until further interrogations are carried out in the case.
News of the violent rape left thousands outraged in Morocco, a country where similar terrifying assaults have been rising in number.
In June, another rape case led to public uproar and protests in the country's capital city, Rabat. This came after eight men raped and murdered a 34-year-old woman in one of its neighborhoods, posting a video of the assault online. The main suspect in the incident is said to have "used several devices to rape the victim, including a bottle." The victim was also beaten and brutally tortured for hours until she died. Her death led female activists across the country to call on authorities to take strict action against rapists.
Unfortunately, other similar cases of sexual assault have been reported in the country in recent years, many of which were captured on camera by people standing by — a troubling fact given that people chose to film the incidents instead of helping save the victims.
The endless list of assaults is alarming
In 2018, a man attempted to rape a female teenager in broad daylight while his accomplice shot a video documenting the crime. At the time, a spine-chilling video capturing the incident circulated online, sparking outrage in the Moroccan community.
That same year, Moroccan authorities launched an investigation over the attempted rape of a woman in Ain Sebaa, Casablanca. The assault was also filmed by bystanders.
Both incidents came just months after a gang rape case drew global attention and stirred national protests demanding action against rape culture. The assault saw four teenagers aged 15 to 17 rape a 26-year-old woman - who's reportedly intellectually disabled - on a public bus.
In 2016, a 16-year-old Moroccan teenager committed suicide after being abducted and gang-raped by eight men.
Moroccan authorities passed anti-violence bills, but is that enough?
In 2018, Morocco officially criminalized violence against women after a new law came into effect. The legislation, which was approved by parliament, imposes fines - and in some cases prison sentences - on offenders of rape, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse.
It also amends the definition of sexual harassment in Moroccan law, to include "unsolicited acts, statements or signals of a sexual nature, delivered in person, online or via telephone."
Though the regulation is considered a step in the right direction, several women's rights activists believe it isn't enough to curb the rising number of assaults on women.
Some of them also criticized it for featuring loopholes as it does not explicitly criminalize marital rape and domestic violence.
Moreover, true change will only come about when the law is properly implemented and when rapists and abusers, regardless of their position or social standing, are punished for their crimes.
These include popular Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred, who is still being hailed in his home country despite being in legal trouble for raping several women in France. This kind of treatment sends a message that unacceptable violence against women is OK.
Moroccan women are calling on authorities to back them in their fight against gender-based violence and abuse by taking a clear stand on the matter.
Last year, a group of Moroccan activists launched a campaign via a now-viral hashtag titled "Masaktach" (I will not be silenced). The viral tag was initially created to call for a boycott on songs created by Lamjarred. It has since snowballed into a broader movement aimed at denouncing all forms of sexual harassment and assault in the country.